New law raises tax-free cap for ‘balikbayan’ boxes
Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) can now enjoy tax- and duty-free balikbayan boxes after President Benigno Aquino III has signed into law the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA), Senator Sonny Angara said on Tuesday.
Angara, chairman of the Senate committee on ways and means and sponsor of the CMTA, said that under the CMTA or Republic Act 10863, the tax-exempt value of items sent by overseas Filipinos to their families back home would be increased from the present P10,000 to P150,000.
“Nagpapasalamat po tayo sa ating Pangulo at mga kasamahan sa Senado at sa Mababang Kapulungan na tumulong sa pagpasa ng batas na ito na naglalayong alisan ng buwis ang ating mga OFW na nagpapadala ng balikbayan box at ireporma ang luma at bulok na sistema sa Customs,” he said in a statement.
(We thank the President and our comrades in the Senate and the Lower House who helped pass this law which aims to omit the taxes our OFWs shoulder when they send balikbayan boxes and to reform the old and dated system of the Customs.)
“With the increase in the values, we lessen the discretion of the Customs officials to inspect goods and collect taxes, thus minimizing cases of corruption and smuggling. Huwag naman sana natin parusahan ang ating mga OFW sa pamamagitan ng pagpataw ng mataas na buwis at sa mga umano’y pangangalkal at pagnanakaw sa mga padala sa loob ng balikbayan boxes (Let’s not burden our OFWs by imposing high taxes, and through the alleged stealing of the contents of balikbayan boxes),” the senator said.
Angara said OFWs can now send up to three P150,000-worth of tax- and duty-free balikbayan boxes in a year, given that the goods are not in commercial quantities nor intended for barter, sale or for hire.
On top of the tax- and duty-free balikbayan boxes, Filipinos, who have stayed in a foreign country for at least 10 years and are returning to the Philippines, will also be granted tax exemption for the personal and household effects, not exceeding P350,000, they will be bringing with them when they return to the country, said the senator.
As for Filipinos who have lived overseas for at least five years, he said, they would be entitled to tax- and duty-free personal and household effects amounting to P250,000, while those who have stayed abroad for less than five years could enjoy P150,000 tax-free ceiling.
Angara said the CMTA also raises the de minimis value, which refers to the value of tax- and duty-free goods and the minimum cost of goods required to undergo formal Customs entry, from the present P10 to P10,000.
To permanently do away with the outdated values, the senator said, the law also provides for an automatic indexation of the amounts every three years to account for inflation.
He said the new law generally aims “to simplify, modernize and align with global best practices the country’s customs procedures including import clearances and valuations, making the release of goods much faster, regardless of whether you are an individual entrepreneur or a large multinational.”
“It also mandates the use of information and communications technology and other appropriate applications that speed up not only the inner-workings of Customs, but also make it more transparent,” Angara said.
He said the CMTA also reinforces Bureau of Customs functions as trade facilitator rather than just being a revenue-generating agency, and imposes higher penalties against smuggling.
“The CMTA aims to overhaul and modernize the bureau which has long been perceived as one of the most corrupt and underperforming government agencies in the country,” Angara said.
“Kahit si President-elect Rodrigo Duterte ay gusto nang buwagin ang ahensiyang ito. Pero umaasa tayo na sa pamamagitan ng mahigpit na pagpapatupad ng batas na ito at sa tulong ng bagong administrasyong Duterte, magbabago at maisasaayos ang kalakaran ng Customs,” he further said.
(Even President-elect Rodrigo Duterte wants to abolish this agency. But we hope that through the strict implementation of this law and with the help of the Duterte administration, the Customs systems would be reformed and put in order.) CDG
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.